It’s another one from my local baking group, where the theme this time was Italian. Which probably explains why I recently opted for trying a Tuscan Ribollita Stew, I’ve been immersing myself in Italian food ideas! This time, I was on Team Savoury at the baking group. The premise of the monthly group is following the set theme, where half of the members will bring a sweet and half a savoury bake. Essentially, because as much as we all like cake trying 12 different cakes can be pretty intense. What qualifies as a ‘bake’ is very simply, would it be something which might feature on the legendary ‘Great British Bake Off’? Here’s a little shot of this month’s baking efforts:
I had a number of ideas for this one, but ultimately it had to be Focaccia. It’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to try making but one of those things you never get round to actually trying. And I was happy to find it was actually fairly straightforward! Other than the kneading and lots of time for rising, the active time you have to put into this is actually pretty minimal. It also has the lovely rustic Italian look about it, so it’s a nice easy win in the looks department as well.
I made a garlic and rosemary variety, roughly following the instructions from a Carluccio cooking workshop my mum had attended and making a few adjustments from some other research as well. I was pretty happy with the result! The only improvement I would make is to add cherry tomatoes into the mix, either just stuffed in to the holes or in the actual dough. This was something another baker had done and it worked really nicely. So I’ll leave that decision up to you!
I had enough for a big one and a little mini one for me to try before the baking group, but you could just put it all into one big bread if you prefer. I used a standard baking tray (around 25cm x 30cm) lined with baking paper. This is the perfect thing to bake when you’ve got friends coming over, as a tear and share affair.
- 500g 00 flour (can for substitute bread flour)
- 2x 7g packets of dried yeast
- 1/2 tbsp salt (plus extra for sprinkling)
- 200-300ml warm water
- Extra Virgin olive oil
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, 1 chopped and 1 whole
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 10 cherry tomatoes (optional)
How to make it…
- Mix together the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a little well in the middle, and then add around half the water and all the yeast. Mix gently with a fork until it has combined, adding water as required when you go along. You should end with a smooth soft dough, which isn’t too sticky.
- When it has all combined, knead on a lightly floured surface for around 10 minutes. Then put back in the mixing bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm or a damp tea towel and leave to prove in a warm, dry place for around an hour. It should have roughly doubled in size (see pictures below).
- Knock the air out of the dough by pushing your fist into it. Then give it a quick knead until the dough becomes smooth, and then roll or stretch the dough into the lined baking tray.
- Use your fingers to push holes into the Focaccia, firmly but not right to the bottom of the tray. Then sprinkle over the chopped rosemary and garlic, adding some of the whole sprigs in the holes. If you’re using cherry tomatoes, put these in the holes as well. Then drizzle over a decent amount of olive oil and sprinkle over a little more salt (flaked salt is ideal for this).
- Pre-heat the oven to 230ºC. Leave to rise under oiled clingfilm or a damp tea towel back in your warm, dry place for another hour, giving it a final chance to rise. Then remove the clingfilm/ tea towel.
- Place the baking tray in the pre-heated oven for around 10-12 minutes, until it turns a lovely golden brown.
- Add some additional olive oil to soak into the bread while it cools to make it nice and moist.
- When it has cooled, cut, eat and enjoy!
- Buon Appetito
Adapted from Carluccio’s Italian Kitchen cooking workshop ‘Focaccia’ recipe